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Bike Tour Intermission: What’s Happening

Jordan and Dr. Q - Pinnacle WellnessHere is an update post on the off chance you’ve been wondering what’s been happening during the bike tour intermission. The first priority was to do everything possible to get Jordan back to full health. We took him to see Dr. Q. at Pinnacle Wellness for several chiropractic visits with neck and shoulder muscle therapy treatments as well as an infrared sauna session. With each visit his health improved. This was combined with rest, hydration and specific nutritional supplements from our Health Coach, Penny Muckleroy of Your Wellness Plan.

In the meantime, I was coming to the realization that I would need to transition the tour from supported to self-supported. I had always known that Jonathan would only be with us through April. It had always been the plan for the tour continue with Jordan, Ladybird and myself. However, with the severe sickness Jordan experienced we decided that it would be best for him to stay home and for me to continue the tour solo.

Roger and Susan continued riding the Southern Tier when we left them in Deming, NM. Each day they rode was another day they were getting closer to me in San Antonio, TX. While I was chomping at the bit to get back on the road, the priority was Jordan. I knew that once Jordan was back to good health I would rejoin the tour.

Riding self-supported meant that I would need to figure out how to take all of the clothes, cosmetics, bike repair supplies/tools, emergency food and a sleeping bag on my bike. At first I thought about stuffing it all into a backpack. I had researched ultra-light bike touring a few months ago and knew it was possible. We had even run into two young German bicycle tourists in Alpine, CA who were riding the Southern Tier with backpacks. However, when I tried fitting everything into my backpack, I discovered this would not work for me at all.

Road Bike Fully LoadedThe next logical step was to find a rear bike rack which would fit on my Trek 1.2 road bike. I was thrilled when my local BikeWorld had one in stock that fit my bike perfectly. My plan was to bungee the waterproof bag that contained my clothes with my sleeping back onto the top of the bike rack. The salesman at BikeWorld told me I really needed to look into bags for the rear rack. Roger also expressed concern about me being able to bring everything I would need for a self-supported tour unless I had bags. Luckily, I remembered Henry Parrilla from Bike Seven had mentioned his bike touring adventures when we took his bike mechanics class before the start of the tour. I contacted Henry and he did indeed have some bags I could borrow for the trip. My road bike now looks more like a proper touring bike.

At this point with Jordan now back to his happy-go-lucky healthy self, it is time to get the show back on the road. Roger and Susan will be in Del Rio, TX in a couple of days. I have my bike packed, prepped and ready. I weighed the load that will be on the rear rack of my bike and am happy to report that I am coming in at just under 20lbs. This is really great news for me because that means I am not having to pedal too much additional weight and my aluminum road bike can still deliver a relatively nimble ride.

ACA Map 3 picWhen I left the tour on April 18th, I wasn’t sure how long the intermission would last. Originally, I thought a couple of days at the most. I had no idea I would be gone for 10 days. I have missed riding 117 miles of map 2 and all of map 3 (496.5 miles). Roger and Susan’s actual map 3 mileage is less than the 522 miles of the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Tier Official Route. We stopped following ACA maps whenever it took us to scenic mountain routes. I think the terror filled ride from Superior, AZ to Miami, AZ cured us of any need to ever ride narrow mountain roads. I think Roger said it best, “If we really want to see the mountain views we can always rent a car and drive through them.” Susan and I whole-heartedly agreed and happily went off-route on flatter roads with wide shoulders.

Truth be told, map 3 was the section of the map that I was looking forward to riding the most in Texas. I love the Ft. Davis, Marfa, Alpine area. It’s one of my favorite getaway locations in Texas and I make trips as often as possible. The idea or riding up to the McDonald Observatory and down to historic Ft. Davis really appealed to me. Another section on map 3 that would have been a highlight was the huge bridge that crosses the Pecos River. The view is stunning and I was excited about the challenge of riding up that steep bridge. When it became apparent that I would not be able to meet Susan and Roger until they made it into Del Rio, TX I knew that I would have to make up that section of the map another time.

There was a part of me that considered going back to Deming, NM to complete the tour riding solo. That was quickly put out of consideration after mentally reviewing my tour experience riding thus far. I know that traveling with a group even a small group is much safer. There is more of a chance that drivers will see you if there are more of you to see. With the summer heat fast approaching, it looks like a ride from San Antonio, TX to Del Rio, TX and up to Deming, NM will be in order sometime during the fall months. It’s my plan to go back to the Crazy Guy on a Bike site to join a group traveling west along the Southern Tier to complete my journey.

So, there you have it. The summary of what’s been going on since the bike tour intermission began. The riding fun is about to start up again. You have no idea how much I’ve missed riding. I have been living vicariously through Roger and Susan’s daily posts on their journal. Now it’s time for me to start experiencing the open road as I pedal the rest of the 1,682.5 miles of the ACA Southern Tier.

 

 

In San Diego

We left on Saturday morning and, two days of car travel later, we are in San Diego. The travel by car was loooong. Day one was the toughest. It felt like we would never get out of Texas. We made it to Las Cruces in New Mexico, ate a fast food dinner and were asleep once our bodies hit the beds.

Day two began with us re-figuring out how to pack the car. It took us an hour, but when all was said and done we think we actually found a better way to pack. More room for us, Ladybird and our stuff. We figure we will get faster at packing the car….or at least that’s the hope.

day 2 collageFor some reason day two traveling felt faster. Not sure if hitting Arizona so quickly after getting started gave us a sense of faster movement. Did we mention getting out of Texas took a really long time? One of the cool things about this leg of the trip was the drastic changes in terrain. From desert to lush farmlands to sand dunes to mountains to ocean. It really was a feast for the eyes.

Driving I-10 is not an exact duplicate of the route I will rise during the tour. However, it does give me a sense of the terrain I will encounter. I have never paid more attention to road shoulders as I did over the last two days. Some roads had fabulous wide shoulders relatively free from debris. Others were rough, gravelly situations full of debris. I am curious how my skinny tires will handle those particular roads.

When we got to the mountains in California before we hit San Diego, I finally got a chance to feel what those elevations have up until now only been lines on a map. Oh boy, what a way to start a tour. I’m not sure if I’m more wary of the going up or going down the mountains. Going down there were times when we would hit 75-80mph without me hitting the gas. I know the weight of the fully loaded car is drastically different than the weight of my and my bike, but it certainly gives me pause.

Roger and SusanToday is rest day. And by rest, I mean we will not be sitting in the car. In reality, I have much to do in order to be ready for Tuesday mornings official start of the bike tour. Bonus today was finally meeting Roger and Susan who are also riding the Southern Tier. We have been corresponding online over the last few months after connecting via the Crazy Guy On A Bike site.

As for the team, Jonathan, Jordan and Ladybird have been a wonderful support. Jonathan taught me more about RPM’s and manually shifting my car than I have known my entire life. If it wasn’t for his thorough and detailed instruction I do not think our entire load would have made it up and down and up and down from sea level to 4,100 feet. I was able to experience his patient and thorough teaching and educational style first hand. Now I know why he was a customer and client favorite in his career. `

Reflecting the day before the Health Fitness Beauty Quest Bike Tour StartsAt the end of the day, Jonathan took me to Mission Bay Park to give my Trek 1.2 bike around for a final test ride. It felt great to get back in the saddle even if it was just for 10-15 minutes. As I looked out across the water, I finally felt like I was in California. I could feel this was truly the beginning of an epic adventure.

 

Personal & Team Preparations

As the departure date gets ever closer there are a few things that need to be done. Over the past week, we have taken a bike mechanics class, had our tour mascot given the thumbs up for travel and I had my eyes examined. You know we captured it all on film as part of the documentary. So, here it all is for your viewing pleasure:

 


Henry L. Parrilla from Bike Seven showed Jordan and I how to replace a bike chain, repair a broken spoke and how to install a new derailer. While we hope we never have to use these repair skills during the bike tour, we sure are glad we know how to make repairs should the need arise. Thank you, Henry for sharing your bike repair knowledge as well as words of wisdom when it comes to long distance bike touring.

Jennifer getting her eyes examinedI went to visit the eye doctor at the insistence of my mother, Nelda Cooling, owner of Koolaches Bakery (and a sponsor of the tour). As many of you know, I have been using over-the-counter reading glasses for a couple of years now. I’ve been in denial about really needing glasses, but I knew it was time to make it official. What I didn’t know was exactly how much I really needed them. I had an “Oh dear!” moment upon hearing that bifocals were in my future. I am now getting the hang of contacts. Putting things in and out of my eyeballs just seems so opposite of what I should be doing. What I will say is that being able to look at my phone without reaching for glasses is a very nice thing. Thanks Mom!

The last thing we did this week was to take our Ladybird, who is the Official Bike Tour Mascot, for her annual checkup. At 14 years of age, we wanted to make sure she was fit and ready for two months of travel and adventure. Something we found especially interesting was that she would need travel papers in order for her to legally cross state lines. Turns out that taking a pet outside of state lines without travel papers can be a costly endeavor which can get your pet impounded. Happy to say she is squared away with a rabies shot as well as flea and heart meds.

 

As you can see in her video, she is less than amused. Being poked and prodded does not make for a happy puppy. This will not be the last time you see Ladybird on video. We will also be sharing “Ladybird Approved” dog-friendly locations as part of our bike tour discoveries.

 

Training, Training, Training

Increasing Mileage

When it comes to preparing for a 3,000+ mile journey, there are many things to consider. Proper nutrition, supplements, hydration, post-ride stretching, and cycling attire are important factors to take into account. What it all really comes down to is time in the saddle. My body needs to become accustomed to spending hours pedaling those miles day after day. I have been steadily increasing my mileage per ride. On days when the sunlight and weather are not cooperating there may be a 20-miler, but the goal at this stage has been to ride a minimum of 30-40 miles per outing. I am thankful that the ability to pedal those miles has been easy enough. Although Texas is known for mild winters, we do have cold fronts blowing through which puts the pinch on ride days. The biggest challenge at this point has been getting these rides in between cold fronts and on good days before the sun sets.

Leon Creek Greenway

With 5 weeks left before the bike tour starts, it’s time to ramp up that ride mileage goal to better represent the daily mileage that my body will experience on the tour. San Antonio has a fantastic trail system that offers me many opportunities to ride safely. Currently, my go-to trail is the Leon Creek Greenway which offers 26 miles of riding. The plan over the next couple of weeks is to increase my single ride mileage from 40 miles to 50 miles. Then ramp that up even further to the 60 mile mark leading up to the tour start. Many folks might think the mileage increase is a big deal. Actually, it isn’t. I have ridden up to 62.5 miles before. The true challenge is riding those kinds of miles on back to back to back days.

 

Toughening Up

Riding day after day makes a big difference in the performance of each ride. Legs feel heavier on day three than they did on day one. I feel every single bit of every bump in the road. I know exactly where my sit bones are and can feel them more and more on consecutive ride days. This is giving me a taste of what I will experience on the tour. This is good because more than any physical toughness needed during the tour will be the mental fortitude it will take to keep on riding day after day for two months.

40 Mile Bike Ride on MapMyRide

40 Mile Bike Ride on MapMyRide

What I am learning right now is that each long ride is not a sprint. It is definitely more of an ultra-marathon. Currently, the ride time for me to burn through 40 miles is over the 3 hour mark. Part of my training now includes forcing myself stop more often than I would if I were only riding once in a while.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is actually more challenging than you might think. The more I ride, the easier it is for my body to deliver a faster pace. Those moments when mind and body are in sync with speed are truly magical. I feel like I am lighter than air and flying along the trail is a mental and physical rush.

Balancing Act

This is where the battle between mind and body requires discipline. The fact is that staying at a fast pace is not something that is sustainable over time. Or at least it isn’t for me. I am working on balancing my minds desire for speed with my body’s need for a few moments of non-riding. Stopping to stretch out of the ride position is important. To offer my hips and back a chance to relax makes such a difference in the ride experience. Even standing on my pedals while riding and pushing my hips forward and straightening my back helps to ease tightness. Better still is stopping and taking the time to stretch out for a few minutes. Doing this always leaves me feeling refreshed when I jump back on the bike.

Jen riding fast

My faithful steed

As I work to increase frequency of rides with more ride mileage, this balancing act will become even more important. The long term sustainability of training rides and ultimately the success of the tour will rely heavily on this balance. Which is why I am so grateful to have this time to train. What a difference this knowledge has made so far. I look forward to learning and sharing even more of these nuggets of practical experience as training continues.

Do you have some cycling tips that have helped you improve your ride experience? Let me hear from you. Leave a comment below to share your training gems. Cheers!